Man-Size’s 20 Records from 2010 You Must Hear Now!

23 Aug

You know how everyone seems to have that “cool friend” who always recommends the best records? The one who you occasionally go to visit, just so you can file through their record collection and find your next favorite band? Well, we here at Man-Size want to be that friend for you; we want to help you discover some pretty amazing bands and artists, whether old or new. And to gain your trust, our music staff has compiled a list of the best music to come out this year so far, in hopes that you find your new favorite record. So, enjoy this list we put together, and we’re sorry for not inviting you into our homes. We only do that after the third date.

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Allo Darlin’ – Allo Darlin’ (Fortuna Pop!)
Allo Darlin’s self-titled debut is probably the most excited i’ve gotten about the cutesier side of indiepop in quite some time. Yes there are ukeleles and yeah, the melodies are beyond sugary-sweet, but these are some seriously good songs. Each and every one of them feels like a soundtrack to a different moment of my summer and that fact alone should cement it into my top five. — Matthew Edwards

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Arcade Fire – The Suburbs (Merge)
Unlike Arcade Fire’s epic Funeral, which was named and written because of several deaths in the band members’ families, The Suburbs takes on a new reminiscent and braver message of life. Though their third studio album, and released after Neon Bible, it’s almost a prequel to Funeral. The Suburbs both speaks of the past and present: “2009, 2010 wanna make a record how I felt then,” Win Butler croons. It’s highly reminiscent of the end of an era, the end of the jovial youth, and how our laptops have taken over the wilderness. All of this and yet it is unwaveringly happy, honest, and catchy as shit. — Emily Gore

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Beach Fossils – Beach Fossils (Captured Tracks)
On the surface, with its laconic vocals and name derived from the misremembered nostalgia akin to a faded Polaroid of a trip to the beach, you wouldn’t be completely wrong for writing off Beach Fossils as trying to capture some sort of zeitgeist. However, the more time you spend with these insanely well-crafted tunes– with the parts for each instrument written completely in relation to the instruments around it, just like classical music or jazz– you’ll realize head fossil Dustin Payseur has put much more effort in this record than your average lo-fi slacker. Regardless of it compositional brilliance, Beach Fossils ultimately succeeds on that surface level of being the soundtrack for this summer and many to come. — Martin Douglas

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The Bitters – East General (Mexican Summer)
In an indie music scene whose leading ladies are satisfied with taking the cues of the hyper-devotional girl-groups of yesterday, Aerin Fogel doesn’t mind getting a few more holes in her fishnets. Fogel (along with Fucked Up’s Ben Cook) create a record that’s as energetic and catchy as it is dirty and skuzzy, with distorted pop tunes like “Impatient as Can Be” and “Travelin’ Girl” stand alongside fright-night punk anthems such as “East” and bleak closer “I’m Feelin’ Good”. East General marks the potential arrival of a new female art-punk superstar, one with enough panache to match Karen O note-for-note and enough badassedness to leave Alison Mosshart cowering in the bathroom stall. — MD

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Ceremony – Rocket Fire (Killer Pimp)
Rocket Fire is a tremendous record. There really isn’t much more to say, but in the interest of filling up some more space, I will say a bit more. The majority of Rocket Fire is noisy as hell, but amidst the fuzz, feedback and crashing drums are some some seriously catchy melodies and that’s exactly why this record shines so much brighter than so many like it. If you’re gonna make a shoegaze record you’d better make damn sure you have the pop-chops to keep up with all that noise. — ME

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Club 8 – The People’s Record (Labrador)
The moment I found out that there was going to be a new Club 8 record this year, I mentally penciled it into a top five spot. Then, when I finally heard “Shape Up!” the deal was sealed. As would always be the case in an ideal world, Club 8 seem to get better with every new record. The songwriting on The People’s Record is brilliant and the percussion-heavy melodies are enough to make a corpse start tapping its feet. Though that would be kind of gross. — ME

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Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles II (Polydor)
Crystal Castles has managed to maintain their Pissed-Off-Kitten-Playing-Atari sound on their sophomore album, Crystal Castles II. Hailing from Toronto, CA, this experimental, electronic, new rave [Really, I could go on.] duo consists of producer Ethan Kath and vocalist Alice Glass. With this album, they continue to make sense and structure out of a mess of seemingly impossible samples. The fifth track “Year of Silence” samples a vocal track of Jonsi Birgisson (Sigur Ros), and to make even a minimalist dream-pop band from Iceland sound great right alongside Atari beats is a huge feat. Just like their name implies, they really are a living She-Ra reference and you can most definitely hear it throughout Crystal Castles II. — EG

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Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma (Warp)
Don’t ask me exactly when minimal techno, hip-hop, 2-step dubs, and free-jazz collapsed in on each other, I couldn’t say. But if you ask me which album so far this year best displays that strange, but timely concoction I’ll answer California native Flying Lotus, who takes those sounds and adds [something]. Steven Ellison’s sophomore go isn’t your dad’s electronic music (“Eno can sure put the synthesizer to use”), not even your older brother’s (“where’s the turntables?”). I’ll resist the urge to call this “that new shit,” but damn if Ellison isn’t seemingly leading the way in laptop instrumentation. This music is visual, improvisational, and surprising. It doesn’t even bother with mood; instead it anxiously combs software capabilities as if to say what if I did this? It makes me wonder how classical loop-masters like Steve Reich might sound with a copy of Abelton Live. Impressive, and impossible to highlight any one track, (even Thom Yorke’s appearance on “…And the World Laughs with You” is slight) it’s best to give Cosmogramma the long-play, proof an album can hold up against our daily overload of web content. Hey, it might even make a good soundtrack. — Curt Busch

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Liars – Sisterworld (Warp)
For a band that follows their own muse as defiantly as Liars, it’s remarkable how much better they get with each passing record. 2006’s Drum’s Not Dead was their career highlight, a tribal/drone freakout with occasional moments of stark beauty (“Drum Gets a Glimpse”, “The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack”), which was followed by 2007’s self-titled record, lauded as their “pop” record, which was more straightforward than anything the band had tried previously (but, when in reference to Liars, always take the word “straightforward” with a generous grain of salt). Sisterworld sees casting an eye on their native California, darker, more visceral, and catchier than ever before, all at the same time. Pretty ambitious for a band who sings, “There wasn’t much to do/So we just sat and watched the TV, and smoked weed” on a song called “The Overachievers”. — MD

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Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid (Bad Boy)
With a personnel list fifty people deep, a run-time at nearly seventy minutes, tour dates with Erykah Badu, and P. Diddy supplying the capital – Janelle Monae has quite a budding career on her hands, at least one backed by big budgets and big names (strangely Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes plays a role). Luckily, she has the talent to accompany the kudos on her debut full-length. On The ArchAndroid, Monae ambitiously attempts dozens of styles of music – R&B, neo-soul, dance, lounge jazz, rap, and funk. Choice appearances from Big Boi, Of Montreal, and Saul Williams work well alongside tense guitar solos and string arrangements. This is that mainstream album, the one that comes along every now and then, loaded with talent, willing to embrace forward thinking, and able to please most every music fan. — CB

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The National – High Violet (4AD)
The musicians in The National provide an excellent counterpart to their singer. The two sets of brothers, Dessner (Aaron and Bryce) and Devendorf (Bryan and Scott), are a hyper-musical bunch, thoroughly well-trained and disciplined in their music making. Singer Matt Berninger is a different story, a dusky baritone whose solemn voice has been compared to every variety of brown liquor available. The group’s strength lies in their ability to couple the stringent musical focus with Berninger’s songwriting persona, a top-shelf drunk who stumbles around the downtown streets in his tailored suit, feeling around for the guardrails before he blacks out and stumbles down the steps. From the lo-fi fakeout of opener “Terrible Love” to the divebombing strings toward the end of closer “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks”, High Violet captures the band in its element, bringing the two very different components of their output together to create the high-water mark of their ten-year career. It’s not surprising that this is what propelled the group into the mainstream’s eye. — MD

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Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me (Drag City)
After listening to Have One On Me as much as I have, I am not surprised at myself referring to singer-songwriter Joanna Newsom as a resident wood nymph. All of her lyrics–earthy, resolute, and simply poetic–are sang in the sort of falsetto you’d think a toddler would have. The songs range from two minutes in length to Newsom’s normal nine minutes in length. It would seem that a nine minute song would drag on, but that is totally not the case with Joanna, as each of her songs are each their own little symphony. The instrumental arrangements change pace, she switches between harp and piano, she’s perfect, etc. Have One on Me is Joanna’s third studio album and was justly released as a triple album. It is simultaneously her most straightforward and accessible, and makes you truly appreciate all the different sides of Joanna Newsom. — EG

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Las Robertas – Cry Out Loud (self-released)
I knew Las Robertas’ Cry Out Loud would be one of my favorite records of the year the moment I heard the beginning of “In Between Buses”. The fuzz! The reverb! The handclaps! The barely discernible girl vocals! It plays upon my every musical weakness and after 30+ full listens—not to mention the 80 or so times I’ve played “In Between Buses”—I’m still attached to it at the hip. — ME

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Serena-Maneesh – S-M #2: Abyss In B Minor (4AD)
Despite the relatively dull reviews it seemed to get all over the place, I think S-M #2 is incredible. It’s a great shoegaze record for the same reasons that Ceremony’s Rocket Fire is, but it’s also more than that, and it’s a bit confusing, too. Take “Magdalena (Symphony #8)” for instance—a sure sign that perhaps Serena-Maneesh really have no idea what it is they want to be doing. I have no idea what I’m doing a lot of the time either, but I don’t make fantastically scatterbrained noisepop records as a result, so more power to them. — ME

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Shabazz Palaces – Shabazz Palaces/Of Light EPs (Templar)
Technically a late 2009 release, this shockingly fresh pair of self-released and promoted hip-hop EPs didn’t get far out of the band’s home-base until early this year, after these militant drum machine-gun blasts had already influenced a young Seattle hip-hop scene. Rapper/producer Palaceer Larazo would like you to believe he crash-landed from the 12th planet with infinite west coast OG wisdom, but if you can keep a secret, read on. Taking cues from dubstep, dancehall, and Def Jux post-boom bap, Ishmael Butler from Grammy-winning ‘90s rap band Digable Planets returns to the spotlight with music exceedingly future-focused but vintage in execution. He shows innovation isn’t always the same as progression and sometimes new art comes from old-heads. Cocky diss-rap blends with sensitive street manifestos that don’t preach platitudes but observe and dismantle with staggering originality. Great writing makes for lines like, “intelligent, relevant, life survivors they wanna hear something elegant.” Whether a “life survivor” or casual hip-hop fan, this is people music. — CB

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The Tallest Man on Earth – The Wild Hunt (Dead Oceans)
Who would have thought that the south could sound just like a lanky, guitar-wielding folk musician from Sweden? Kristian Matsson, The Tallest Man on Earth, solidifies that question in his sophomore album The Wild Hunt, which sounds like it could be recorded in an old cabin during the Gold Rush. Matsson is an adept acoustic guitarist [hear “King of Spain”] and an exceptional vocalist–even lyricist–who draws comparisons to the early years of Bob Dylan. The Wild Hunt, though primarily made up of acoustic guitar and vocals, closes with an almost Springsteenesque “Kids on the Run” on a badly tuned upright piano. His voice is a nice brand of raspy, his songs are both sweet and bitter. — EG

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Wavves – King of the Beach (Fat Possum)
On his second proper full-length Nathan Williams’ is still hopeless, pissy, tired, lazy, apathetic, etcetera. He’s lying in the sun; I mean, c’mon, he’s the king of the beach. He may have just dragged on some marijuana (no, he definitely just dragged on some marijuana [see: high cat cover]), but for all those suffering slacker pathos dude sure gave some direction to King of the Beach. Sticky melodies fly deliciously over-the-top to a place where finger-snapping ‘60s sunshine pop meets cynical bouts of doomed punk accessorized with a detached comic vision. The constant self-loathing could veer towards whining narcissism if the music didn’t stay lighthearted and campy with bubblegum hits “Mickey Mouse” and “Baseball Cards.” I advise you to take Williams’ desire to “take on the world,” with a grain of salt, because what he’s really out to do is dethrone the serious. It all seems kind of post-modern, though it’s all probably just a load of fun. — CB

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Wolf Parade – Expo 86 (Sub Pop)
Expo 86 stands as a great marriage between Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug. They are two great singers and songwriters who have each had so many side projects they’re almost the Beatles of indie rock: Dan Boeckner’s Handsome Furs could be Lennon & Yoko, Spencer Krug’s Sunset Rubdown could be Wings. Expo 86 seems to meld all of their styles extremely well. It’s thick. It’s rock. They sound like a solid-ass band with DeCaro’s basslines, Thompson’s drum work, and Boeckner and Krug’s ability to balance their tastes for guitar and synth riffs. In an interview with Pitchfork, Krug said that the main principal of this album was that he wanted to be able to dance to the songs, referencing the floating notes at school dances in the Archie comics. [I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Archie would love this fucking album.] Expo 86 isn’t anything cryptic–sure, it’s sometimes punny [i.e. Cave-o-sapien]–but it’s still to-the-point and remains fun while doing so. If you have the chance to see them play this album live, please do so and please dance your boatshoes off. — EG

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Woods – At Echo Lake (Woodsist)
For a lot of music fans, the word “psych” is synonymous with the terms “too weird for most people” or “hopelessly drawn out”. While At Echo Lake, the third official record from Brooklyn-based Woods, has its fair share of weird moments (the undercurrent of white noise coursing through “Pick Up”, the noise that bookends jammy romp “Mornin’ Time”), the record is refreshingly brief and wholly immersive. Jeremy Earl showcases his immense talents as a songwriter in blinding light, able to switch from the balladry of “Time Fading Lines” to the driving and dark “I Was Gone” with effortless ease. Woods has always made excellent records. At Echo Lake is the closest they’ve ever come to making a perfect one. — MD

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Xiu Xiu – Dear God, I Hate Myself (Kill Rock Stars)
Sometimes you’ve just got to go with the vets. Xiu Xiu’s seventh full-length of sad and pretty songs come together into one great big despaired piece. Jamie Stewart (w/ Angela Seo and Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier) adds a Nintendo DS to the band’s electro-acoustic beats and continues to try to out-sad every earnest emo bro on the market. A good mix of humor and honest-to-god grief occupies Stewart’s very vocal performance on Dear God, I Hate Myself. Melodies sometimes get obstructed by the hyper-active instrumentation but on repeat listens their strength is revealed. Songs like (“Chocolate Makes You Happen”, “Dear God, I Hate Myself”, “Gray Death”) are sorrowful and funny; precise and witty, but above all memorable. Xiu Xiu have methodically refined and developed their niche and continue to do it better than most. You can’t tell anymore if their sad or joyous, and you don’t know why, but you just keep listening. That’s what seems to happen when music is really good. — CB

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